I recently bought a new 5th gen iPod nano on eBay and I've been listening to a podcast series by the church called Mormon Identity. It is on the church's online radio site the Mormon Channel. I highly recommend checking out the content available, especially the Conversations and Mormon Identity segments. You can download them or listen to them as you prefer.
Mormon Channel Logo
One of their early segments was Preparing a Generation. It was an interview with a member of the BYU faculty who recently concluded a 15 year research project where he and a colleague interviewed and followed a few thousand LDS youth to disprove a theory that religion was dependent on context; or put another way the theory was that religion was a social convention and that the only reason people were religious was social pressure from peers. The more the surrounding society was religious the more religious and "righteous" you would be. Obviously this is ridiculous since many very righteous LDS people come from communities where they may be the only student in their school who is LDS.
So a few interesting findings from the study I wanted to share are these:
That generally speaking LDS youth are far less likely to be involved with drugs or criminal behavior than their average American peers. We'd expect this but it is still great to hear.
The study also found that location had little to nothing to do with the faithfulness of youth and that the greatest influence was what went on in the home. So that is good news for the significance of our teaching our children in our own homes. This also means that our unspoken example makes a huge difference, even more than the example of our kids' friends and peers.
A few less good things the study found relate to honesty and morality. While our youth would not steal a car they may not see anything wrong with cheating on a test, or other petty issues. The researchers believe that we are teaching them to avoid the big sins, very specific applications of the gospel but perhaps not mentioning smaller things. The youth may think that cheating is OK since it helps them do well in school and doing well in school is good; after all who is hurt by cheating?
Another worrisome behavior found is that our young men are not dating our young women. The boys are dating non-member girls before their missions. This leaves the young women to date non-members as well, yet they are seeking out older boys who will want to get more physical in their relationships. Consequently there seems to be a decline in sex among the young men but a rise among the young women. The young women seem to only find validation and self worth if they have a boyfriend.
I've always liked this one
It seems that we need to improve our teaching of the youth to have self worth and identity within themselves as children of God so they don't need to rely upon outside validation. Perhaps we say that they are Children of God so often, or that they are a chosen and reserved generation, that it becomes cliche. None the less it is true and very significant. And I derive a great deal of independent self worth from my knowledge of being a child of God with a divine potential. How can we effectively teach this relationship to our children?
A month or so we had an excellent lesson by our Bishop, which he learned from a meeting with Elder Bednar, on the difference between the doctrine of the gospel, principles of the gospel, and applications of the doctrine. An example of the difference would be the doctrine of home teaching being that we are to nourish and succor the family we watch over and see to their needs all the time. A principle would be sharing a spiritually uplifting message. And the applications being visiting, sitting on a couch and talking, or reporting numbers to leaders. Elder David A. Bednar says that we teach and focus on the applications too often and don't discuss, or even know, the doctrine behind what we do.
With relation to the topic of teaching our youth we need to focus and teach the doctrine such that they understand the whys and leave the application, hows, to them to figure out as they are guided by the spirit. So for example, if we can fully teach them the divinity of their bodies and the sacred power of creating families then they will realize that chastity and modesty are important without our having to browbeat them constantly about things like tattoos, earrings, and short skirts. This idea reminds me of the change to the Preach my Gospel manual where memorized lessons were replaced by a fluid framework that could be adapted to individuals as guided by the spirit.
Of course this then necessitates teaching our children how to recognize and follow the spirit. So how do we teach our children to recognize the spirit? How can we better learn the doctrine ourselves and then present it in an age appropriate way? What has worked well in your families?
Originally posted by Sonian in Manhood, Fatherhood, Priesthood: A forum of Advice, Insights, Council, and Loving Support on Sunday, 4 July 2010